E.U. CONSIDERS FASTER VACCINE ROLLOUT TO CONTAIN CORONAVIRUS VARIANTS

European leaders, struggling with a slow vaccination effort and fearful that highly contagious coronavirus variants could rapidly overwhelm their medical systems, moved Thursday to begin reimposing border restrictions and to speed the distribution of vaccines — even those not yet approved for use.

“We are increasingly concerned about different variants of the virus,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters after a virtual summit of European Union leaders, saying that although the bloc intends to keep borders open for trade, it may restrict nonessential travel.

The leaders held back from endorsing a specific plan for borders. But Germany — which as the richest and most populous E.U. member often drives its discussions — proposed strict, temporary bans on travel to the E.U. from countries where mutated forms of the coronavirus are already prevalent, including Britain. The proposal would restrict E.U. citizens from returning to their home countries if they are currently in an affected country, and would therefore be more stringent than previous border measures.